Since its inception, employee engagement is seen as a local (read team level) phenomenon and is believed to be largely driven by the ‘work group level’ dynamics. In such a reality, the team manager, is indeed, the central anchor of employee engagement. At one time Gallup estimated that managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.
Techno-Social evolution, specifically over the last three to five years, has dramatically changed the world of work. A large proportion of the workforce today chooses flexi work over regular office visits. More and more business is being conducted through project-based virtual teams rather than manager-led intact workgroups. Traditional communication channels are being replaced by ‘always-on’ social communications. According to an Intuit study, it is expected that 40 percent of the total US workforce, by 2020, will comprise of independent workers i.e. freelancers, temporary workers, etc., doing multiple jobs.
In a world where 38 percent (63 percent in India) of the employers find it difficult to fill jobs, only 13 percent global workforce is apparently fully engaged - the above trends are creating unprecedented complexities. Organisations not only continue to fight the talent attraction battle, engaging the talented employees such that they put high levels of discretionary effort to drive business results has become an even bigger challenge. Renewed thinking is required not only to attracting and selecting the right people, but also making sure they are retained and are engaged to be optimally productive.
The traditional approach towards measuring and impacting engagement is not helping organisations win in the war for talent. The need of the hour is to measure and enhance the Total Employee Experience – much beyond the known drivers of engagement.
So what do the organisations need to do?
1. Treat employees as customers: As internal customers, employees expect to have a similar experience that they are used to as external customers of various products and services. The contemporary workforce has already gone digital. Their professional, personal and social life is increasingly online. The world is embracing digital way of life. It is an imperative for an organisation to have a digital HR strategy to manage the Total Employee Experience. Organisations that do not wake up to this reality are at a very high risk of losing the war for talent. Look out for ways and means to delight employees – continuously.
2. Defining ownership: The debate of whether HR or the business owns engagement is redundant in the current context. HR, line managers and the organisation as a whole – and even the employees – have a role to play in ensuring engagement. According to a recent Oracle study, in ~40 percent of organisation, employee engagement is still owned by HR. Like any other aspect of organisational success, HR has a limited role to play in defining employee experience there by their engagement. CEOs need to make Strategy, Marketing or for that matter IT equally accountable for employee engagement.
3. Focus on enablement: The experience of being “fully enabled” to bring out their best, both in physical and virtual environment drives engagement of employees significantly. Organisations must evolve their systems and processes from being check and control mechanisms to levers of providing employee delight. While managers should wear the hat of mentors and coaches, HR and IT should focus on creating an experience of enablement for the employees – tactically, strategically and behaviourally. Technology is today the single most critical lever to drive overall employee experience and there by employee engagement.
4. Track employee experience across touch points: Periodic measurement of select drivers of engagement is insufficient in the current times. Organisations must work towards getting real-time pulse of employee experience across touch points on a regular basis. Physical wellness, financial health, social engagement and overall satisfaction all impact the emotional state of an employee and hence must be tracked by employers. Proactive support goes a long way in creating an experience of delight for the employees.
5. Create bespoke employment experience: Each individual is unique and wants to be treated uniquely in today’s times. Be it in defining employment terms, choices around role and responsibilities, learning experience or career development, each employee wants a bespoke treatment. Organisations need to have enablers in place cater to this very important employee expectation.
6. Appreciate for talent: Today’s workforce expects appreciation and recognition for the unique talent they bring to the table and not just for doing good work. Organisations need mindset and enablers to identify and appreciate unique talent at an individual level and not just focus on role/organisation specific competencies.
7. Create a new leadership mindset: The impact of leadership on driving employee engagement remains unchanged. However, leaders will need to unlearn a lot from past and replace with new age leadership competencies.
The concept of employee engagement has assumed a much more holistic shape and has become an even bigger component of organisational success. Total Employee Experience is indeed the new synonym for Employee Engagement.
(Aaron Green is the Vice President HCM of Oracle APAC)